Minister Fights MP Over Armyworms Invasion

…As PAC questions MDAs over AG report

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, yesterday attacked the  Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South at Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, over the undefeated fall armyworms that continue to invade and destroy thousands of farmlands in the country.

The near exchange of words between the two occurred when the Builsa South MP, Dr. Clement Apaak, challenged the claims by the Food and Agriculture Minister that government has won the war against the fall armyworm invasion.

While answering questions from members of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC), Dr. Akoto said government deserved commendation and not condemnation for how it has managed to defeat the fall armyworms in farms across the country.

According to him, as compared to other nations in the West Africa sub-region, Ghana has managed to control the fall armyworm invasion better and must be commended.

He explained that from the estimate of a total of one million hectares of farmlands, 124,000 hectares were affected by the invasion and 14,000 hectares were completely destroyed.

Dr. Akoto added that, contrary to claims by critics that the fall armyworms invasion will affect food security in Ghana, there is rather a bumper harvest, as a result of the ‘Planting for food and jobs’ programme, initiated by the government.

He also expelled the fear of food insecurity and stated that the ministry has taken steps to support the farmers whose farmlands have been completely destroyed.

But Dr. Apaak disagreed and said the claim of victory over the armyworms was palpably untrue, because almost all farmlands in his constituency, Builsa South, are affected and he was there and had witnessed such.

According to him, contrary to the claim by the Agric Minister that the fall armyworm invasion is over, “there is more than enough evidence in most farms in the northern parts of the country that the pests continue to devastate farms.”

Dr. Apaak, who had early on displayed pictures of the worms on some farms which he said are in his constituency, noted: “I think the minister has been untruthful. He has been deceptive. It is important that the truth be said, because the armyworm is alive and well on the farms.”

He added that not Builsa South alone, but  there were other concerns by some farmers that the worms were still causing havoc, stating the government should rather admit its failure and ask for support rather than claiming victory when farmlands are continuously being destroyed all over the country.

Dr. Apaak further said, most farmers in the northern part of the country have not received any chemicals and are struggling to keep their fields safe from destruction.

“There is no community I have visited that I have not cited armyworms. The Minister for Agric peddled falsehood to Parliament when he appeared before us… not only are the worms alive, they continue to ravage food crops in the northern part of the country… Farmers don’t have even one iota of the so-called chemicals,” he claimed.

The MP also said, most farmers are helpless and feel disappointed in how the government responded to the pest invasion and are worried they may struggle to get food to eat later this year.

However, in response to Dr. Apaak, the minister said Builsa South is just a fraction of the country’s farmlands and, therefore, could not be deemed that the fight against the worms in the entire country has failed..

The Agric Minister further said, his outfit has been able to deal with the issue completely and that there was no fear of food shortage in the system.

He insisted that there are enough chemicals in the country for all farmers whose fields have been affected by the pests.

Many Ghanaians have expressed fear that the situation posed an existential threat to the livelihood of about 4 million farmers whose farmlands have been infested.

Mostly affected were grain farmers, even though some cocoa farmers also complained about the invasion.

The fall armyworms are pests that wreak havoc on crops, if left to multiply. These caterpillars mainly attack maize crops and eat everything in an area.

Once the food supply is exhausted, the entire “army” will move to the next available food source.

The Public Accounts Committee, chaired by James Klutse Avedzi, was scrutinizing officials from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, its departments and agencies, over the 2015 Auditor General’s report on financial infractions.

The Nungua Dairy Farms, the Sunyani Municipal Assembly, the Kassena Nankana West and Central, the Kintampo, Assin Foso, Damongo, Bimbila, North Dayi districts and others were queried on misapplication of funds, unapproved by parliament or board on financial disbursement.

The farmland in the Nungua Dairy Farms in Accra was the most subjected matter, as it was disclosed that the over 2,060 acre land acquired in 1957 has been encroached upon by developers and it currently has about 95 acres.

According to management of the Nungua Dairy farm, government in 2005 took a portion of the land for affordable housing, while other portions were also leased back to the original owners.

Following that, other developers have also encroached on the land, making it impossible to rear cattle and they now concentrate on pigs and poultry farming.

As a result, Hon. Avedzi directed the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to take immediate steps to ensure that the remaining lands are registered at the Lands Commission for future dairy activities.



Source: Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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